Universal Cable Productions has signed exclusive development deals with Steve Carell’s Carousel Television and Jessica Biel’s Iron Ocean Productions. Both companies already are developing projects with the studio. Carousel has a an untitled drama about the onset of Hollywood’s golden age, focusing on actual Hollywood events and characters dating back 100 years. Iron Ocean is working on two projects. Pop Culture — written by Melissa Hilfers and executive produced by Royal Pains‘ Michael Rauch, who is under an overall deal at UCP – centers on a bachelor living the high life in NYC who has a sudden change of heart after babysitting his nephew. He hires an aspiring actress to play his wife, and things get complicated when he finds himself falling for her. Moguls, penned by Geoff Moore & David Posmentier, is a half-hour workplace comedy about the eccentric twentysomethings employed at a family-owned Colorado ski resort whose way of life is challenged when the mountain is purchased by a corporate behemoth.
I’ve learned that two of USA Network‘s pilots, drama Horizon and comedy Divide & Conquer, are not going forward. The pilots, both from Universal Cable Prods., are being shopped elsewhere. Horizon was a big swing and a major departure for USA, being a period alien drama. Written by Bridget Tyler, exec produced by The Walking Dead‘s Gale Anne Hurd and directed by Yves Simoneau, Horizon is set during the height of World War II when a secretary at the FBI (Ruth Bradley) becomes the only person standing between Earth and an alien invasion. Penned by Peter Ocko, Divide & Conquer was clearly eyed as a companion to USA’s high-profile acquisition Modern Family. It too is a family comedy, about four children on a path to adulthood and their parents. USA has four other drama pilots, Complications, The Novice, Rush and Sean Jablonski, and one comedy, Love Is Dead, as half-hour pilot Benched was recently picked up to series.
We’re in the midst of the annual ritual of broadcast casting executives chasing their tails, also known as casting the leads of dozens of network pilots at the same time. As usual, many pilots go after the same names, resulting in a few actors holding a slew of offers thus bringing pilot season to a standstill.
Related: Primetime Pilot Panic Listings
Last year, Damages‘ Rose Byrne was the focus of attention with virtually every pilot vying for her, but she ended up passing on all. Actresses receiving multiple offers early on this season but not yet committing include Jennifer Connelly, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Diane Lane, Maria Bello, Hilary Swank, Octavia Spencer, Felicity Huffman, Kyra Sedgwick, Sarah Chalke and Elizabeth Banks. We already had a very elusive leading lady, Tea Leoni, locked in for a pilot, CBS drama Madam Secretary, with popular pilot targets Jack Davenport, Jennifer Carpenter (both on ABC’s Sea Of Fire) and David Schwimmer (ABC’s Irreversible) also spoken for. Several usual suspects, including Ellie Kemper and Natasha Lyonne, got an early jump by attaching themselves to projects (NBC’s Tina Fey/Robert Carlock series for Kemper, the Amy Poehler pilot for Lyonne).
This latest deal for Franklin Leonard’s script service comes about six months after a tie-up with Warner Bros, which resulted in a two-step WGA minimum deal worth about $93,000 for Tasha Huo, who was a Universal assistant at the time. Today’s announcement marks the first TV network deal for the Black List, which is expanding into episodic content in its quest discover writers from underserved demos. Here’s the release:
TNT and TBS are partnering with The Black List on an initiative to promote diversity in the industry by identifying talented writers to develop scripts and concepts for the networks. TNT and TBS are the first television networks to team up with the Black List following the site’s expansion into episodic content. The networks will be looking for writers from diverse backgrounds for possible blind script deals and staffing consideration on TBS and TNT series, with the goal of signing script deals with particularly strong writers in the half-hour comedy and hour-long drama genres.
PILOT SEASON: Walls Of Vertical Integration Fall Down As Orders For Projects From Rival Networks’ In-House Studios Skyrocket
It was 1999, the height of the cold war among the broadcast networks. Following the 1995 elimination of the fin-syn rules, which allowed networks to begin producing their own series, ABC, CBS and NBC started building up their in-house production arms with one mandate – to churn out product the nets would own. Cross-pollinating was considered almost heretic. Then in 1999, an ABC-based company, Jerry Bruckheimer TV, didn’t fold after getting a “no” from the network on its CSI pitch, instead setting the forensic drama at rival CBS. But vertical integration got in the way, with ABC deciding it wouldn’t be prudent to subsidize a rival by deficit financing the newly picked-up series — a $1 billion blunder for Disney as CSI went on to become a global hit. The last-minute pullout by ABC that left CBS scrambling put extra chill on the networks’ willingness to buy from the in-house production company of another network. (Fox sibling 20th Century Fox TV had long established itself as a major studio selling to everyone.)
Fast forward to 2014 when a whopping 10 projects from ABC Studios (5), Universal TV (3) and CBS TV Studios (2) have received series or pilot orders at rival broadcast networks so far, with pickups still underway. Here is how we got here. The ice among the broadcasters started to thaw a little in the mid-2000s. ABC’s in-house studio landed another hit on CBS with drama Criminal Minds, which it stayed with, and NBC’s production arm fielded a couple of short-lived series including Worst Week for CBS and Sons And Daughters for ABC. During the 2011 pilot season, there were two pilots from ABC’s, CBS’ or NBC’s production arms at rival networks: Weekends At Bellevue at Fox from Universal TV’s predecessor Universal Media Studios, and Ringer at CBS from ABC Studios. (Fox and UMS had an existing relationship via Fox’s hit drama House, sold by then-independent Universal Television just before its merger with NBC, while ABC Studios pulled out when Ringer moved to CBS sibling the CW.)
USA Network has given a series order to comedy pilot Benched starring Eliza Coupe and Jay Harrington. The single-camera project hails from ABC Signature, marking the first series for ABC Studios’ boutique division. “Benched is one of those unique series that creates an immediate connection with the audience,” said USA Network president Chris McCumber. “The lead is played brilliantly by Eliza Coupe, who has undeniable chemistry with Jay Harrington’s character. Benched is a half-hour courtroom comedy that focuses on Nina (Coupe), a dedicated, career-driven corporate attorney who has a very public nervous breakdown after getting passed up for an expected promotion, and finds herself working as a public defender. Harrington stars as Nina’s new colleague, Phil, a tall, dark and handsome, if not a little scruffy, public defender and avid gambler. With Happy Endings alumna Coupe, Benched brings to USA a piece of the cult comedy series that USA came close to acquiring last year following its cancellation by ABC. Benched was written by SNL alumna Michaela Watkins and Damon Jones who executive produce with Party Down co-creator John Enbom and Mark Gordon Co.’s Mark Gordon and Andrea Shay. Benched is part of USA’s push in original comedy series. The first show to come out of that effort, Denis Leary’s Sirens, debuts March 6.
TCA: ‘Suits’ Influencing Young Viewers To Go To Law School, Not Show Ass Crack, Cast Members Say (Video)
UPDATED WITH TCA TRAILER: The cast and creator of USA Network’s Suits came to the TCA Winter TV Press Tour this morning and talked about the show’s impact on the nation. “It was a White House Christmas party a year ago,” reminisced cast member Gina Torres. “It was one of those things – ‘Oh, my God. We are going to the White House!’ And it was like Comic-Con for lawyers… politicians start off as lawyers, or they start off as businessmen — they are running companies, or they have lots of lawyers in their lives, or whatever it is. And I walk into this thing, and whether it’s pages or whether it’s, you know, the congressman from this or that, and, then, the First Lady’s chief of staff, says, ‘I love your show. We love your show’,” Torres said. Her thought at the time: “Is the First Lady, is Michelle watching the show?”
Suits returns on Thursday, March 6 at 9 PM after a triumphant third quarter in which it was a Top 5 program in the demo among all of TV’s primetime scripted series. Last October, USA gave the hit legal drama a 16-episode fourth-season renewal, and series creator and showrunner Aaron Korsh signed an overall deal with Suits producer Universal Cable Prods to continue on the show and develop new scripted series.
UPDATED WITH TCA TRAILER: “[USA] said ‘OK, listen, you can’t show the horse actually getting a blowjob’, and we said, ‘We know we can’t show the horse getting the blowjob,’ but, secretly, we were, ‘F*ck! We can’t show the horse getting a blowjob!’ ” Denis Leary told TCA critics this morning when asked the difference between making Rescue Me for FX and making his new series, Sirens, for USA Network.
Leary and Bob Fisher came to the winter TV press tour to talk about Sirens, premiering March 6 at 10 PM after the return of Suits at 9 PM. It moves to a single episode at 10 PM the next week, paired with a Modern Family repeat at 10:30 PM. The single-camera comedy follows three Chicago EMTs played by Michael Mosley (Pan Am, Scrubs), Kevin Daniels (Modern Family), and Kevin Bigley. It’s based on a British series of same name. Leary’s business partner, Jim Serpico, was approached by the British producers, who were fans of Rescue Me, wondering if they wanted to adapt it for the U.S. “We really liked those guys, and USA was pillaging the cast of Rescue Me and putting them into shows,” Leary explained. So they decided “we can make some money off these USA people,” he said.
EXCLUSIVE: Susan Sarandon has signed with UTA only about a month after leaving ICM Partners where she had been for about 25 years. The Oscar-winning actress next stars in the upcoming Melissa McCarthy road comedy Tammy at New Line playing a rough-and-tumble grandmother and also is starring in and co-producing a half-hour single-camera comedy at NBC in which she stars with daughter Eva Amurri Martino. That project, produced by UTA-repped Le Train Train, recently received a pilot production commitment from the network. Sarandon is one of the best actresses working today, often nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes (and other awards) and critically acclaimed each time she appears in film. She has had a long and noteworthy career from everyone’s favorite The Rocky Horror Picture Show to her Oscar-nominated performance in Atlantic City to winning an Oscar for her performance as a nun struggling to help a man on death row in Dead Man Walking. She will repped by a team of agents led by UTA partner and talent department co-head Shani Rosenzweig. She will continue to be repped by her attorney Jon Moonves.
Related: Susan Sarandon Leaving ICM Partners
Rescue Me co-creator/star Denis Leary is back in business with FX, this time on the comedy side. FX Networks has given a pilot order to Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, written by and starring Leary as a middle-aged rock ‘n roller who desperately wanted to be rich and famous but so far, he’s 0 for 2. The show will feature original music and occasional guest appearances by actual rock stars. The pilot, tentatively slated to film in the spring in New York City, is produced by FX Prods. and Fox Television Studios where Leary and Jim Serpico’s Apostle has a cable deal. Leary and Serpico exec produce. As is the case with most FX comedy pilots, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is being ordered under the FX Networks umbrella, with a decision whether the project would be for flagship FX or comedy-centric FXX to be made at a series pickup. “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is a terrific script and concept with Denis Leary’s signature brand of comedy,” said FX president of original programming Eric Schrier. “Denis is a tremendous talent who played a major role in the growth of our network with Rescue Me, which was one of the most groundbreaking series of the last decade.” Added Leary, “I am very excited to be returning to FX where working with Nick (Grad), Eric and John Landgraf has been one of the best creative experiences of my life. Plus I hear they have much better swag now.”
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, which has no connection to Eric Bogosian’s play of the same name, is centered on Johnny Rock (Leary) who, as the magnificently talented lead singer of New York’s legendary early 90′s band The Heathens, was on his way to the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. His best friend Flash was being called the next number one lead guitar player on planet earth. The critics loved them. Their live shows were selling out. But Johnny had a problem with booze. And coke. And weed. And pills. And cough medicine. And oh yeah – he slept with Flash’s wife. And his bass player’s fiancée.
The Quiet Before The Storm: Warner Bros TV Readies Offers To ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Cast, In Talks With CBS For New 3-Year Deal
For long-running series, time is usually not on the side of the cast when they have to negotiate new deals because ratings inevitably erode as shows get older. But that will not be the case with CBS‘ The Big Bang Theory, which, in Season 7, is still at its peak. Things are quiet and there has been no movement yet on the actors, but I hear producing studio Warner Bros TV will likely go out to the three leads — Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco – after the first of the year. The contracts of the trio, along with original cast members Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar, are up at the end of this season, as is CBS’ deal for the show with WBTV. I hear the studio and the network have started discussions about a new license fee deal. Like the last one, I hear the renewal will likely be for three seasons, which means the studio and the network would likely try to lock in Galecki, Parsons, Cuoco, Helberg and Nayyar for the same term. (Big Bang‘s other regulars, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch, recently closed new deals.) Like the last time, in 2010, Galecki, Parsons and Cuoco are expected to go first, followed by Helberg and Nayyar. (The former three are repped by the same law firm, Hansem, Jacobson, Teller, and are expected to negotiate together.)
There is no doubt about it — both the license fee and cast deals will be huge. After all, Big Bang Theory is the biggest show on broadcast television. The comedy is running neck and neck with NBC’s Sunday Night Football for the highest-rated program this season adults 25-54, averaging a 8.6 in the most current ratings to SNF’s 8.8. The way Big Bang has separated itself from the pack is staggering. Among adults 18-49, Big Bang averages a 6.8, with the next three series — NBC’s Blacklist (5.0), ABC’s Modern Family (5.0) and NBC’s The Voice (4.9) — almost two rating points behind.
In May 2010, a day after CBS announced Big Bang‘s move to Thursday 8 PM from its protected Monday 9:30 PM berth, I wrote a column, Is ‘Big Bang Theory’ The Next ‘Friends’? At the time, I felt the multi-camera comedy about a group of friends held the promise to become as successful as its NBC predecessor in the Thursday 8 PM slot. Big Bang has more than delivered on that promise. It is even more dominant than Friends was in its heyday, positioning itself to contend for the type of blockbuster deals Friends – produced by the same studio, WBTV — landed in its last major renegotiation for Season 9. At the time, WBTV broke a record for the highest license fee scored by a half-hour series when NBC agreed to pay $7 million an episode.
TBS successfully paired a reality series, game show King Of The Nerds, with its prized off-network comedy The Big Bang Theory. USA Network is looking to do the same with its marquee off-network comedy, Modern Family. The cable network has given an eight-episode order to Chrisley Knows Best (working title), a half-hour original reality series. Described as a real-life family comedy, it follows Atlanta-based self-made multimillionaire Todd Chrisley, his devoted wife Julie, and their five children who live a seemingly picture-perfect Southern life with everything money can buy. (Watch a promo below.) The series, produced by Maverick TV and All3Media America, is slated to premiere with two back-to-back episodes on Tuesday, March 11 at 10 PM, immediately following Modern Family. In a synergy move, USA sibling E! will air repeats of each episodes on Sundays at 10:30 beginning March 16. “Chrisley Knows Best is a broad family comedy that is a modern version of Father Knows Best with the volume turned way up,” said Heather Olander, SVP, alternative programming for USA Network. “While their lifestyle is over-the-top and their personalities are larger-than-life, the Chrisleys are a very close-knit family who are refreshingly honest and genuinely funny.” The series is executive produced by Adam Greener, Jim Sayer, and Stephanie Chambers.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David E. Kelley, Jay Leno, Rupert Murdoch, Ray Dolby, Brandon Stoddard Named To TV Academy’s Hall Of Fame
NoHo Arts District, Calif. – The Television Academy’s Hall of Fame Selection Committee has announced the groundbreaking television legends to be inducted into the 23rd Hall of Fame. The 2014 inductees, announced today by Television Academy Chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum, are highly accomplished individuals from all aspects of the television industry whose careers have made a significant impact on the medium.
The 23rd Hall of Fame class includes four-time Emmy® Award-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, prolific writer-producer David E. Kelley, late night legend Jay Leno, media mogul and FOX Broadcasting Company founder Rupert Murdoch, and iconic ABC Network executive Brandon Stoddard. Additionally, sound pioneer and innovator Ray Dolby will be inducted posthumously. The induction ceremony will take place at the Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel on March 11, 2014.
USA Network has set a midseason schedule, which includes drama Suits returning to Thursdays to lead into new comedy Sirens, USA’s first original half-hour comedy in a long time. White Collar also will air on Thursdays, while Psych‘s eighth season, expected to be the hourlong comedy’s last, will air on Wednesdays. The midseason premiere of Suits will be on Thursday, March 6 at 9 PM, followed by the debut of medical comedy Sirens, executive produced by Denis Leary, at 10 PM. (trailer below) Sirens will launch with two back-to-back episodes before switching to a single episode at 10 PM the following week, paired with a Modern Family repeat at 10:30 PM. Suits started on Thursday before moving to Tuesday. White Collar will start things off on Thursday, returning on hiatus on January 9, paired with Law & Order: SVU reruns. Season 8 of Psych will air on on Wednesdays, beginning on January 8. It is somewhat surprising that USA chose a drama, Suits, instead of a comedy like Psych or Modern Family as a lead-in for new comedy Sirens. “As a top cable drama, Suits has a huge following of young viewers making a perfect segue to Denis Leary and Bob Fisher’s brand of comedy,” said USA”s EVP Jackie de Crinis. “Both series feature sharp, witty banter from an ensemble of great characters.”
HBO and Starz garnered three nominations each as the American Society of Cinematographers announced its TV nominees for the ASC Awards today. Winners will be announced at the 28th ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography set for February 1 at Hollywood & Highland Ray Dolby Ballroom. Here are the noms:
One-Hour Episodic Television Series
Steven Bernstein, ASC for Starz Network’s Magic City (“The Sins of the Father”)
David Franco for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire (“Erlkönig”)
Jonathan Freeman, ASC for HBO’s Game of Thrones (“Valar Dohaeris”)
Pierre Gill, CSC for Showtime’s The Borgias (“The Purge”)
David Greene, CSC for The CW’s Beauty And the Beast (“Tough Love”)
Anette Haellmigk for HBO’s Game Of Thrones (“Kissed by Fire”)
Kramer Morgenthau, ASC for Fox’s Sleepy Hollow (“Pilot”)
Ousama Rawi, BSC, CSC for NBC’s Dracula (“The Blood is the Life”)
Half-Hour Episodic Series
Peter Levy, ACS, ASC for Showtime’s House Of Lies (“The Runner Stumbles”)
Matthew J. Lloyd, CSC for Amazon’s Alpha House (“Pilot”)
Blake McClure for Comedy Central’s Drunk History (“Detroit”)
Jeremy Benning, CSC for National Geographic Channel’s Killing Lincoln
David Luther for Starz Network’s The White Queen (“War at First Hand”)
Ashley Rowe, BSC for Starz Network’s Dancing On The Edge (Episode 1.1)
Fox has put in development, Ball & Chain, a drama written/executive produced by Peter Ocko (Fairly Legal) and executive produced by Steve McPherson through Lionsgate TV. The project, which falls under McPherson’s first-look deals at Fox and Lionsgate, centers on two ex-operatives with screwed up personal lives who are set up by their intelligence agency to become romantically entangled and run missions as a team. Ocko, repped by Vision Art, has comedy pilot Divide and Conquer at USA.
Fox also has bought a comedy project from Andrew Gurland and Justin Hurwitz, creators of the network’s half-hour pilot The Gabriels last season. Like The Gabriels, the new project, also produced by 20th TV, is based on Hurwitz’s life, but instead of his childhood, it involves his early adulthood. It centers on a brother and sister who develop an adult relationship that wreaks havoc on everyone else around them. Hurwitz has written multiple episodes of FX’s The League, while Gurland recently wrapped his FX pilot starring Nat Faxon and Judy Greer. The two are repped by Principato Young and WME.
EXCLUSIVE: Sofia Vergara and Luis Balaguer’s Latin World Entertainment and Ben Silverman’s Electus have teamed with Royal Pains co-creator Andrew Lenchewski and writer Benjamin Brand for Speak American, a half-hour comedy that has been sold to Fox. Universal Cable Prods, where Lenchewski is under an overall deal, is producing. Written by Brand (IFC’s Bollywood Hero), Speak American centers on America Aviles, a young accent-reduction teacher of Latin descent who hires a stranger with unconventional methods to teach her class. Brand and Lenchewski originally developed Speak American at USA with the lead of European heritage. The two then changed direction and approached Silverman and Modern Family star Vergara, who have extensive experience in Latino-themed projects. Silverman executive produced ABC’s Ugly Betty, based on a Colombian telenovela, and he and Vergara executive produce ABC’s upcoming drama Killer Women, based on an Argentine series. They also have partnered on their premium YouTube channel, NuevOn along with an Electus/LatinWE partnership to bring programming formats to the U.S.